The Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord
January 6, 2018 A+D
St. Matthew 2:1-12
In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Explanation of what the Epiphany is. Wisemen from the East (Babylon). Influenced by Daniel, Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego. Etc. The gifts they brought confessed their faith in Jesus as Prophet, Priest, and King. Jesus was manifested to the Gentiles.
As you hear the account of the Magi visiting the infant Jesus, you discover that it is not simply about the manifestation, appearance, revelation and epiphany of the Lord Jesus. While He is the center of the Magi’s investigation and travels as well as the center of the story, the Holy Child is not the only one who is made known. Also manifested are the Father and the Holy Spirit-yet indirectly, so as not to overshadow the Son of the Virgin. For Jesus is Savior of all nations, the beloved Son sent by God to redeem mankind and to give His life as a ransom for many. Yet He does not work alone, He works in communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit. And so they also are manifested and made known through Him.
So, where are the Father and the Holy Spirit? And what role do they play in the Lord’s epiphany?
Notice how the holy evangelist tells the story. The Magi don’t just appear out of nowhere. They are led to the infant Jesus by a star. But not simply a star, for they know of the promise of a King to be born a promise that finds fulfillment in a specific location. What is that promise?
But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.
That promise is recorded by the prophet Micah, but it is not Micah who makes the promise. The promise is made by God the Father. He speaks of sending His Son, who will rule over not just Israel, and not even the whole world, but who will rule life by overruling death and the devil. In this way He will be the Good Shepherd who shepherds the Lord’s people, the Lord’s Church. That is the promise God the Father makes through His prophet Micah.
It’s that prophetic promise that gets the Magi on their way. For how would they know about a coming Ruler and Shepherd if Micah had not preached and recorded the Lord’s promise? And how would they know which way to point their camels if they had not heard “Bethlehem, in the land of Judah”? So they say to themselves, “If we want to seek and find this Child, this Ruler, this Shepherd, we must believe the Word which the Lord spoke through His holy prophet. We must stick to it and not allow ourselves to be diverted from it. If we disregard or disbelieve what the Lord says, then we will certainly lose the Christ Child. For it is not by our imagination or our wisdom or our intellect that we have heard of the Christ, and believe Him to be a Ruler and Shepherd, a Savior and King. It is only because God has given us His Word that we believe Him to be worth finding and adoring and believing. So we must make the Lord’s Word our reliance-or we will not see the Savior.”
So the Lord Jesus is not found apart from His Word. Not in the imagination of your heart or in your clever scheming, but only in the preaching and hearing of the Father’s Word. That is how the Magi know to worship the Christ. And that is how you also know that the Holy Child born in Bethlehem is both your Savior and your Lord.
It all hinges on the promise of the Father. The Father gives His Word, and the Magi believe it and, in faith, move forward to worship and adore. And the Holy Spirit, who begets faith by the Word sustains their hope, and increases their faith. He emboldens their confidence. And the Spirit preserves their reliance on the Father’s promise so that they are not dissuaded by other thoughts, or discouraged by the difficulties of the journey, or frightened by the devil lurking around every corner. Their journey to the Christ is not unlike your journey in Christ. Sickness, death, job loss, family difficulties, various personal hardships, crosses, and trials seem to the world to be evidences that God is not with us. Quite the contrary, these prove that God must be with us. For if He were as distant as the devil and the world would have us believe, we would certainly perish. But His promise leads us. He has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
Yet the Holy Spirit is also found elsewhere in the story. He is the star. For what does the star do? Does it not lead the Magi directly to Christ? Does it not lead them to Life Himself, to the Savior and Righteousness of God that they were seeking? Surely that star is the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son so that He might lead us by faith in the Son and enkindle in us a holy and certain hope.
And so, led by the Spirit, relying on the Father’s promise, the Magi faithfully seek and worship Christ the Lord. Their faith and persistence is rewarded with the object of their faith.
And what’s encouraging for us, is that the Magi represent all of us Gentiles. They have received nothing more extraordinary or spectacular than you have received. In fact, you have more. For when the Father by the Spirit leads them to Christ Jesus, all they can do is present gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Fine gifts indeed, but not worthy to be compared with the gift you receive when the Father by the same Spirit led you to Christ Jesus. For in your Holy Baptism, the riches of heaven were bestowed upon you in the forgiveness of sins. In this Holy Supper you have the divine Savior given to you under bread and wine. The epiphany is being re-enacted once again. Only now you are in the place of the Magi. And instead of leaving gifts before the infant Jesus, you receive from Him the gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation. For in His Holy Body and precious Blood is the forgiveness of sins, and where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.
By the Holy Sacrament the Lord makes known to you the fullness of His glory and gives you a foretaste of the fruition of His glorious Godhead. For in the Supper of Christ’s Body and Blood, you partake of the Lord Jesus and know Him most intimately by faith.
Therefore Epiphany is more properly the story of how the Father, by the Spirit, leads you to Christ Jesus in the Holy Sacrament so that, during the Sacrament of the Altar, you might come, kneel down, adore, and receive Him, Christ the Lord.
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.
*** Theme of the manifestation of the Trinity influenced by a John Fenton sermon from 2002.